You are here

Transplanting Large Hardwood & Pine Trees

Filed Under:
May 24, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about transplanting large hardwood and pine trees. Hello, I'm Amy Taylor and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Randy Rousseau, Mississippi State University Extension Hardwood Specialist. Randy, today you want to talk about the correct method of transplanting large hardwood and pine trees.

Randy Rousseau: Over the last few years I've had rather a large number of calls from land owners that have purchased large trees, more of which I would define almost as a sapling, much larger than a seedling. This means these trees are typically somewheres between six to 15 feet and have a root system that is either contained in what is known as a ball and burlap area or a large container. Could be anywheres between five to 20 gallons or even more. The ball and burlap trees are allowed to grow in nursery for an extended period of time. Then they're lifted from the soil to form a root ball, which is then wrapped with a variety of material. But in most situations, it's wrapped with burlap to hold the root ball together.

During this system, a considerable amount of fine roots will be lost as the tree is lifted out of the ground, as well as even some of the large lateral roots. This will place the tree in a stress and steps should be taken to ensure that the tree lives following transplanting. The first step is to make sure that the entire root system stays moist from the time of lifting to the time of planting.

Amy Myers: What about containers? I don't think that any part of the root system will be lost, so that should be an overall better method. Is that correct?

Randy Rousseau: Amy, you're correct. When trees are grown in containers, the biggest plus is the fact that no root system is lost, if done properly. However, problems can arise of leaving the trees in the containers last too long and allowing the root system to maybe spiral around the container. This root spiraling will continue after the tree is removed and placed in the planting hole. And eventually this deformed root system will lead to windthrow as the root system is inadequate to maintain above ground portion of the tree during windy type of conditions. In addition, the spiraling effect will also impede the root's ability to pull moisture and nutrients from a larger soil mass, thus reducing the growth and placing the tree in a stress condition, predisposing it to harsh environmental conditions such as drought or insects and disease, which would lead to its mortality.

Amy Myers: What should you do to reduce or eliminate these problems?

Randy Rousseau: In each situation, the mistakes that were made in the nursery can be somewhat alleviated in the planting, but may not prove 100% effective. In the case of containers where the root's spiraling is at the bottom and along the sides of the container, the tree needs to be lifted from the container and the roots that are spiraling should be cut, [inaudible 00:02:50] similar to shaping a hedge so that the spiraling tendency is eliminated.

For the ball and burlap trees, make sure that the material covering the root system is either removed or cut apart to allow the root systems to feed and grow. It has been my experience that removal of this material allows you to examine the root system condition and take [inaudible 00:03:09] appropriate steps for the problems are observed.

Amy Myers: Is there anything else that we can do to ensure a successful transplanting?

Randy Rousseau: Plant when the weather conditions are correct. And this means both temperature and rainfall, which are conducive. And in Mississippi, this would be the early spring, then again in the late fall, say October. This puts less stress on the transplanted, thus providing higher survival rates.

Another key factor is getting the correct depth and width of the planting hole to allow enough room for the tree roots to grow as the tree ages over the next few years. The planting hole should be more saucer-shaped and should be not just big enough to fit the root ball but by digging a large hole, it allows a break up the soil when filled back over the root system. The soil is then more friable rather and can easily take in moisture and nutrients. The tree depth must be kep deep enough to have the root ball to be under the surface but only an inch or so.

The soil type should be checked once the hole is dug. Pour water into it and see how long it takes to drain. If it takes more than a couple of hours, you should look for another spot or make sure that species you have chosen was the one that can withstand some poor drainage. You could also mound the area up if you wanted to in the planting hole so that the planting hole is not in the water, much like a raised bed.

Make sure that the bottom hole is flat so that the tree is not tilted and result in the tree growing lopsided. After the tree is planted, it should be watered weekly, but this depends really on the rainfall. You want approximately an inch of water on the transplant every week. Following this you can add water soluble fertilizer a couple of times a year and you should be in good shape.

Amy Myers: Today we've been speaking with Randy Rousseau, Hardwood Specialist. I'm Amy Taylor and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Forestry

Select Your County Office